I’ve spoken about this before but the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stunned many of us. Nobody argues his intelligence: he’s a retired brain surgeon after all. But he brought no experience either in public service or housing. I posted the theory that President Trump nominated him out of a belief that any African American understands public housing, even though Dr. Carson has never lived in public housing.
I can only imagine the reaction of all the career HUD public servants to their new boss, but that pales in comparison to what they must be thinking after his first meeting with them. I was not able to find this on the HUD webpage, but here’s what he told them:
That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
My grandparents came to the United States to make better lives for their children and descendants (including me), but they came voluntarily. They didn’t come in chains. When they arrived they were seen as people and not property. I sincerely doubt that Dr. Carson’s ancestors dreamed of anything as much as they lived a nightmare.
The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. In 1808 it became illegal to import slaves to the United States and slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865.
The descendants of those who arrived here in chains may well benefit from being Americans but in no way does this make it OK that people arrived on the bottom of slave ships to spend their lives working for the benefit of others.
As much as we admire the 13th Amendment, it does not remove the stain of its need to have a Constitutional amendment to see all people as people and none of us as property.
And Dr. Carson’s remarks still offends all of us who see people as people and not property, even his ancestors.